marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

ETA: not just me! More sightings at SERoundtable and Web Search Help. Consensus seems to be drifting toward "no one likes it". Also, a style name in honor of it: Grackle, for it being Google/green and Black...le.


Google with green and black fonts, top half of page

And, uh...

Google with green and black fonts

I mean, I know: it's Friday night, some dev at Google's probably bored, we all know I stay up late...

If anyone else is getting this design change I haven't seen proof of it yet in the Google searches I've done - not in regular nor News results.

For the hex enthusiasts out there the colors used are #292929 (black) and #006621 (green). I sampled each via the Firefox ColorPicker add-on to avoid having a stroke by looking through Google's CSS again - I haven't put myself through that in years. Also, the visited link color (if they even have one for this style) is not working and the "Searches related to" text down near the bottom is much bigger than normal scratch that because upon re-comparing, I think it's the same size.

For anyone else looking to see this version of search results, I got them using the browser search box in Firefox 46.0.1 on Windows 10 but was not able to see it in Microsoft Edge when I opened it minutes later to perform the same searches. Which I did because science.

So ymmv, or you might simply never see this look in the wild at all.

Um, do any of you like it? It is more designer-y, which might be an improvement?

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

Check this out; a Google search for [!!Con] - the actual, proper name of an upcoming conference...

Now check this out; a Google search for [!!Con New York City] - the conference's actual, proper location...

Finally, check this out; [bangbangcon] - the first three syllables of the conference's website URL. And whoo-ey, !!Con is finally the first result.

But wait...with such an unusual and, chances are, completely unique name, !!Con should always be the first result for its own proper name, shouldn't it?

Google ignores punctuation. Performing most punctuation searches returns nothing useful (and usually returns nothing). But! (or should that be !!But?) who knew appending punctuation to any proper name would essentially erase it, and anything about it, from Google?

Well, now we all know. Don't we?

Excuse my marketing skills while they take a quick piss on this topic:

Your site, when searched for in Google by proper name, should always be first in results! Always!

OK, so this is Google's fault for being a still-quite-dumb search engine, not yours for being a creative, perhaps uniquely talented thing-namer. But they'll kick your ranking's ass either way, so take heed: you only have to be smarter than Google - nope, not a high bar to cross, in this case - to ensure this won't happen to you. :'/

Then again, if you wanted your website de-indexed without blocking Googlebot, this might be the easiest and most brilliant way to go about it, ever (for the curious, I checked !!Con but afaict it's not blocking any crawl).

Maybe I'll run experiments to see if Google de-indexes anything with punctuation in the name. I'm also curious to know if appending punctuation to the back of the name has the same effect as appending to the front of it.

It's completely errant behavior for Google, and could be used for search engine cloaking, which is encouraging more of the everyday atrocities upon mankind which they probably already employ an army to deal with.

Proper search engine behavior is not - has almost never been, "I google this name and get some other name in results". What the search engine won't tell you is "because punctuation".

To give so much emphasis to an URL over a website's proper name "because punctuation" is not just confusing - as in the example above, website's URL and proper name can differ so much as to be uncoupled entirely - it also looks misleading and wrong.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

As a followup to my last post, The problem with our ever-expanding list of TLDs, demonstrated in just one link, and as I promised I would do sometime today, I just got done trying to report the website for forgery. I say "just got done trying" because it didn't go too well - Google doesn't have a category to file a website forgery under so I had to go with "This page is really webspam", then click the button that says "Report webspam". The problem is, it's not really webspam. There's just no other category that fits what I'm reporting. Here are my choices:

  • Paid links --
    This page is selling or buying links. (Well, I don't know, maybe it is or maybe it's not.)
  • Objectionable content --
    This page is inappropriate. (What does that even mean? Sure, it's inappropriate - it's a make money fast scam that uses USA Today's logos and branding to give it an air of false legitimacy, and heck, I find that waaaaaay the fuck "inappropriate". But that's probably not what the vague "this page is inappropriate" means.)
  • Malware --
    This page is infected. (Well, by basic greed, perhaps.)
  • Other Google products --
    This page abuses Google products other than Search, e.g., AdSense, Google Maps, etc. (Well, that's what Adblock is for, so I don't have to see Google's or any ad network's ads, so I can't say if that's the case without disabling ABP - maybe next time I'm filing a report, I'll do that.)
  • Copyright and other legal issues --
    This page should be removed under applicable law. (Yeah, it should, but I'm not the copyright holder, so it's not exactly my place to request a it?)
  • Personal/private --
    This page discloses private information. (No, but it's trying to get me to disclose private information under completely false pretenses - that is, via a non-existent endorsement from a non-existent and completely forged page that does not exist on USA Today.)
  • Phishing --
    This page is trying to get sensitive information. (Again, yes, but it's not mirroring USA Today to do that - it's farming you out to other sites from the phony USA Today mirror to harvest the personal info they're after.)
  • Rich Snippets --
    This page doesn't comply with Google's rich snippets guidelines (in other words, it's got crap in the meta tags or in the visible or invisible page text designed to mislead Google into publishing a snippet that makes you trust the site or convinces you the site is A when it's actually B. Haven't checked the page source/don't know.)
  • Something else is wrong --
    This page has other, non-webspam related issues. (Well, yeah, like it's an obvious forgery... *head explodes*)

Where is the freaking category for web forgery? Where is it? Web forgery ought to be against Google's guidelines, but apparently it isn't. Only if the forged site directly engages in phishing is it a phishing site (at least, that's how I was taught to understand what does and doesn't qualify as phishing). Regardless, the forged USA Today site tricks you into believing the next sites you'll visit by clicking through links on the faked USA Today page are legitimate sites that won't scam you. But they are rogue "take the money and run" sites that will scam you in a heartbeat. That's why I reported this. Google needs to get with the times.

After enduring the headache of filing that report, I turned to USA Today, thinking it would be comparatively easy to report the forgery of their own website to them. A Google search on how to contact USA Today brought me to this page, which lead me to a dead link for "Technical questions", which I think this actually is. Did your famous website get forged and your brand and logos stolen just to scam money out of others? Yeah, that's a technical question, and I already know the answer is "Yes", but I won't be using that link to tell them. Neither will anyone else. But I've devised another plan.

So my next step is, play dumb - really dumb, as in, "Hi, I'm still using the AOL!1!11" dumb, contact their editorial department as an outraged USA Today subscriber (which I'm not - I'm perfectly outraged, but not a subscriber) and tell them the article they wrote about how a Michigan mom is making over $7,000 a month by just staring idly at her tablet sounds like one big scam to me. Then I'll add they should be ashamed of themselves for printing such baseless, asinine, potentially dangerous crap and finish with a link to the actual scam website in question. I don't know, maybe then they'll buy a clue?

*with apologies to my RL/AL for publishing an early, unedited version of this post quite by accident
marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

Let's parse this lovely URL, bit by sneaky bit: the web address certainly looks legit enough because it starts off with "" (which is a legitimate URL that takes you to a well-known, nationally distributed newspaper's website). But that's not where this URL will take you. Instead it whisks you off to "" (as anything after the final dot in the web address is your actual top-level domain name destination). Picking up with the slash after the word "careers", the rest of the URL simply references a specific page on the website. Clever, is it not?

So, are you visiting when you visit this site? No. Is the website dangerous? No. It's simply a scam designed to perpetuate online fraud upon anyone who unwittingly thinks they're visiting USA Today when they visit any one of these links. To check this, I viewed the WOT score for the web page linked to above (which is so bad the page is blocked from viewing unless you click a link within the WOT dialog box that says "Go to site" - the other choice, for those unfamiliar with the WOT web browser add-on, is to "leave site", which any unsuspecting person might want to do in a hurry) which indicates the site is "spam" and has already been reported as "a scam".

Why do I say it's a scam waiting for "anyone who unwittingly thinks they're visiting USA Today when they visit any one of these links"? Because if you scoot up to the website's directory - like so - you see that the entire site is devoted to scamming people by using USA Today's corporate logos and branding on everything (in violation of both trademark and copyright laws, if I am correct). Have I blown your minds yet?

Let's dig a little more, because hey, to me, this kind of sleuthing is fun. It's for exactly this reason - for con artists such as these - that I keep the DT Whois add-on installed in my Firefox at all times! So let's go see what it says. Oh wait, we can't, because the domain apparently discourages such things by redirecting the add-on to the last tab I was on, so I wind up looking up Dreamwidth's domain details, repeatedly.

OK... *regroups*...huh, now my mind is blown (and yes, it takes a lot for that to happen, as I've been tracking down scam websites in exactly the same fashion for the last 9 years).

Jumping off to ICANN for a domain check that can't screw up somehow, we see that the domain is registered privately (which is expected, given the nature of what it exists to do) and that it was created in June and expires next June. Chances are this is as-planned...if the site isn't taken down by next June by USA Today, CDMA-style, then the cowardly owners should count themselves lucky, indeed. Checking Google - which, as usual, does a disservice to the entire Internet by indexing such scam sites at all - we see amongst the first page of 2,830 results that the site's IP address, according to this page, is, which indeed resolves directly to, that estimated traffic is over 30,000 visitors per month - which is a lot of potential victims to scam, especially for such an unknown entity - and that most of their traffic comes from the US and Singapore.

Since this site is not well-known and has a PageRank of exactly 0, it's likely it was created, is visited by and is regularly updated from Singapore - unless, for some reason, one or more USians created it and are directing a lot of (perhaps automated) Singapore traffic to it, but given that the site is most commonly seen as a link on scam survey sites such as Panda Research (how I stumbled across it, go me) that are used mostly by USians, this alternate explanation is somewhat unlikely.

With that out of the way, tomorrow (as it is late in the wee hours as I write this) I intend to do two things, which you can also do against this or any website you suspect of scamming: 1) contact Google to ask to have the website de-indexed as a scam/spam site - if indeed it's indexed by Google (this site clearly is) and 2) contact USA Today (or, in the case of any other website's corporate identity being stolen, then the name of whatever website is being similarly abused) to let them know of the scam.

Further reading: the entire damn list of TLDs out there, as of this writing (it is, as I said in the title, an ever-expanding list, which unfortunately only further enables just these kinds of frauds).

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

Didn't know Christ was running in 2010 or else I surely would have cast my vote for him...

Gotta love G's auto-correct

I ran across that trying to look up exactly who ran against Crist the last time he ran for the governor's seat...I had said Alex Sink in my last post but on second thought I think she ran against Scott in 2010 because the time (I need to look all of this up again) I think had switched from Republican to Independent to run for the Senate.

It's all very confusing because the guy has literally switched parties three times in about as many years (which is not something I blame him for...he was never a truly conservative nor Tea Party Republican to begin with, even if he did occasionally pantomime their views merely to get himself re-elected - so given the pressures of the right-wing and Tea Party elements 3-4 years ago I think he simply had no choice but to start jumping party affiliations).

But, hey, Christ FTW.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

If you don't think Google is actively trying to discourage amateur coders like me from changing the look of their websites, think again; for instance, they've changed the code for their new appbar (another dev and I are using its HTML to run the old-style top navbar) on an almost daily basis since rolling it out in the US, and with their latest change, it becomes pretty obvious that either a) they want to make sure no one can change their code without using JS to overlay and/or re-arrange things in a way that doesn't directly alter their CSS (client-side JS loads and runs much more slowly than client-side CSS, which of course discourages people from using scripts that depend solely on JS to make any design changes) or that b) it's an awfully big coinkidinky that that simply appears to be what they're doing.

Right now, if you install either my script or the userstyle I'm adapting a tiny bit of my code from, you'll see the navbar we've so carefully recreated. But that's all you will see. It appears to be blank and empty (thus, broken and useless) since less than two days ago, no matter which of our scripts you use (note: disabling cookies will actually show you Google's last design; my script will still work and look just fine with it).

James' userstyle, with links newly hidden thanks to Google...

G hides navbar links

My userscript, with links newly hidden thanks to Google...

G hides navbar links

Of course, the really interesting part is if you just click on the navbar while using either script, poof! The links will all show up again! Wowzer, bowser. That could change by the time I hit "publish". It could've changed in the time it took me to write that last sentence. Not to even mention the broken header you see in the screencap for my script? Fixed it twice in the last week, most recently late last night, to accommodate Google's non-stop changes to that portion of the page as well, only to have them break it again while I was, uh, sleeping. Which, you know, I have to do once in a while or else I can't really code for shit. That's how fast they keep changing things.

You could argue it's not a conspiracy against amateur coders, that Google is known to be constantly - yes, just constantly - "improving" and "updating" their sites, and while that's true, if the "updates" and "improvements" result in no visible design changes on their end - and lately they most certainly don't - and if their code is not being optimized but in fact added to until HTML div nesting looks similar to someone feeding the divs into a blender, then publishing the output, it seems one could safely argue that the constant changes are more about protecting their own interests than "improving" or "updating" anything.

So, what interests are Google trying to protect? Here are a handful of amateur coders writing tiny bits of new code and/or using each other's to ever-so-slightly modify small portions of Google's vast array of web pages. Big deal, right? How could they possibly view this as a threat? Perhaps because we offer consumers a choice, our choices tend to be pretty popular, and the fact that Google does not have one unified look as a result leads them to fear that there will be confusion and revolt among end-users when they see other perfectly viable design options that even hacks like me can easily compile and publish for free.

Google wants 100% control over every aspect of the Google experience without coders like us drawing away however many tens of thousands of their users with viable, easy to use alternatives. Thus their endless string of so-called "changes", "updates", and "improvements", which I'm telling you right now are 99.5% bullshit, done merely to keep most coders from easily re-coding Google to look the way we YOU want it to.